(5:05 p.m. EST) - Two cruise ships are stuck outside of Galveston Bay, while a third has been stranded at the port of Houston overnight after a collision between a tanker and a fuel barge partially sunk the barge and released more than 150,000 gallons of fuel into the bay.
Carnival Magic and Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas are both being held at sea, delaying their return to the port of Galveston, both of which were scheduled for this morning. Princess' Caribbean Princess, on the other hand, has been stuck in Houston's Bayport terminal since yesterday. The ship was scheduled to depart yesterday afternoon for a seven-night Caribbean sailing.
It is unclear when the ships at sea will be permitted to return to port. As a result Carnival has decided to push embarkation back by at least a day. In its latest passenger update the line wrote, "Due to the uncertainty of when the port will re-open, and the time it takes to disembark guests from the previous cruise, we are forced to cancel today's embarkation. Our tentative plan is to operate a 6-day cruise embarking tomorrow, depending on how the situation unfolds."
Passengers who choose to continue with the shortened cruise will receive a one-day prorated refund of their cruise fare and gratuities will be adjusted to reflect the shorter sailing length. Passengers may choose to cancel without penalty. However, refunds will not be provided for flight changes, hotel accommodations, meals, transfers or other incidental costs resulting from the delay.
But a post from Cruise Critic member xprmntl1, on the Navigator of the Seas roll call indicates the ships may be returning sooner rather than later. "I am currently on the Navigator. Captain just said Navigator is scheduled to be first ship back in port at 6 p.m. Magic to be right behind."
Royal Caribbean and Carnival told Cruise Critic they have been communicating with onboard passengers regularly and have opened up the Internet and phone lines so passengers can alert family or make travel plans.
Royal Caribbean has sent passengers waiting to board Navigator of the Seas three messages so far. In the most recent the line said, "The U.S. Coast Guard is currently deploying aircraft to determine the extent of the oil spill and its impact to vessel traffic in the port… Therefore, the Navigator of the Seas' return to Galveston continues to be held. Because of this, your boarding today will be delayed and we ask that you do not depart for the port at this time."
According to a Houston area ABC affiliate network, the spill happened when a tanker collided yesterday with the barge, which was carrying nearly 925,000 gallons of fuel from Texas City to Bolivar. Since the accident parts of Galveston Bay have been shut down and some 90,000 feet of boom deployed to contain the oil spill. A containment book is a temporary floating barrier designed specifically to contain oil spills.
Stay tuned for further updates from Cruise Critic.
--By Dori Saltzman, News Editor